Incumbent Steve Smith facing Gordon Vaden in Custer County Commission race - East Idaho News
East Idaho Elects

Incumbent Steve Smith facing Gordon Vaden in Custer County Commission race

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CUSTER COUNTY — Incumbent Steve Smith is being challenged by Gordon Vaden in Custer County’s District 3 Commissioner race.

To learn more about the candidate’s platform, asked the candidates to answer the same eight questions. Their unedited responses, listed below, were required to be 250 words or less.

Tell us about yourself — include information about your family, career, education, volunteer work and any prior experience in public office.

Smith: I was born in the local hospital and raised in Custer County/ Mackay. My grandfather bought the ranch from the homesteader and has remained in the family currently for three generations. I have been married for 26 years to my wife Michelle, have three kids. My oldest will graduate as a Chiropractor June
2025, my second child will graduate Bible College in Wyoming, my youngest has completed his first year of Bible college.

My Career- I have two degrees from Multnomah University Asc in Bible Education, Bachelors in Science. Mt Hood Community College Aviation licenses of Commercial Pilot / Instrument/ Multi-Engine Commercial completed in Arlington Texas. Had a General Contractor License and Bonded in Washington and Oregon State from 1996-2000.

Served with InterVarsety Fellowship in the Capacity as Director of Global Project Director in Brazil in the early 90’s where I would take college students on short term missions in the field. My family has played at weddings, funerals and community events all through the years in the area. Served on my church board, FFA Advisory Council as Chair, helped drive school bus as an alternate when needed 2020 and previous. Have served as Custer County Commissioner for 8 years.

Vaden: I grew up on a ranch in a family of eight, five sisters and two brothers. I got married in 1971 and we have two children, eight grand children, two great grand children and have been married fifty-three years.

I graduated form Mackay High School and went to work at Mackay Lumber. I bought the yard in 1999 and ran a successful business until I sold it in 2018.

I have volunteered for many things over the years. At this time I am on three different local boards. I am on the Custer County Planing and Zoning. I have done the books at all the girls and boys basketball games for forty years and have put in many hours working with the FFA program. This is my first go at public office.

Why are you seeking political office? Briefly explain your political platform.

Vaden: I have lived in Custer County most of my life and have loved it here. I am retired now and would like to serve the people of Custer County to keep it a great place to live and raise children.

Smith: I am asking for my constituents to consider voting for me for a 4 year term as their commissioner. I feel that I am a strong voice for them fighting for what keeps Custer County attractive to live in and what America was 100 years ago.

As per our oath we swear to uphold the citizens rights and look out for their Health, Welfare and Safety through all aspects of our office. I am for multi-use on public lands, not federal lands but PUBLIC LANDS. Conservative values, fight for property rights, Inalienable rights, and no infringements on their US Constitutional rights.

What areas in your county need immediate improvement? What actions will you take to address those needs?

Smith: Most of the infrastructure in the State of Idaho’s counties was put in the 1950’s. Many bridges are needing replacement. We have to have the help of LHTAC through the ITD for grants to build new bridges. One bridge alone will be over 12 million dollars. I attend the CITC (Central Idaho Transportation Committee) to get points for our placement on projects.

There are many other issues such as the jail we have tried to update. Three Bonds have been voted down by the public and they do not understand how a jail directly impacts their quality of life. Meetings, community citizens involvement and education couldn’t overcome their concerns. There are building projects in progress that the county is using our own monies to complete with the help of grants to fix these problems.

Vaden: Funding is a big problem in the county where 97% of the ground is public and has a small population and not much tax base. I will work to get more money from the PILT program. We currently get .32 cents an acre the second lowest in the state. I will research all options that are available to find something that will work for us.

What are the greatest longterm challenges facing people in your county? What is your plan to meet those challenges?

Vaden: We need a junk yard some where in Custer County, we need a jail and sheriffs office. The current Commissioners are working on this and if elected I would work hard with the BLM and Forest Service to find a spot for the junk yard. I would also continue work for the jail and sheriffs office.

Smith: Crime uptick across the nation in general, infrastructure replacement as stated above, and planning and zoning issues. People are leaving neighboring states like hotcakes because the policies and state laws are swinging so far that they can’t tolerate them anymore. Our laws protect agriculture and won’t allow for subdivisions to be built on irrigated farm land. There is not much property for sale here and housing is difficult for those seeking jobs in the area. This is statewide problem. The private sector of developers is slow to buy land and build housing.

I still plan on supporting our P & Z ordinances to protect agriculture from pavement. I also say that the private sector needs to be the ones to build housing, I do not feel that the county should be a landlord. Taxes should not be used for this, taxes are to keep up infrastructure and our emergency services ect.

How will you best represent the views of your constituents – even those with differing political views? How will you communicate directly with constituents?

Smith: I serve as all of our county constituents’ commissioner but I do not swing to please. They have elected me for my platform. An example is like my stance on the wolf issue. Pressure on the Fish and Game to allow year round hunting and other means to help livestock owners reduce the loss to their herds.

Anyone who is opposite of my position regarding the wolf will not vote for me. I do not ask for their vote and I will not change on my position of how bad that introduction was for our county and our state. There are other issues that has conversation from both sides of the isle towards the best solution. Some issues I have a hard line, other issues there is good debate to have for best result.

Vaden: After fifty years in business I have learned how to listen to people and help solve problems. I will listen to all the people of the county and then would make a decision based on input and what is best for the whole county.

My phone number and email is available to all and I would use all local available media.

What parts of the county budget could use more funding? Where are places in the budget that cuts could be made?

Vaden: In a big county with a small population all the departments could use more funding. The sheriffs department could probably use it the most. So we can keep good officers when we find them and keep people safe.

Smith: Law enforcement is an area for continued increase of funds. It is difficult for Custer County to keep deputies after we train them. The larger counties around us can offer so much more salary that we can’t compete. We have increased a lot the last few years to help in this but will never be able to compete with larger county’s pay scale.

Budget cuts, I don’t see any frivolous spending in places where needs to be cut. The three percent increase will help for areas where additional funds are needed.

What is the role of local media in your community? How can county officials work to have a better relationship with the media?

Smith: We have two papers in the area that the residents use for current information. I am always willing and take phone calls from their editors on questions regarding county business. I have a good relationship with them.

I do not do social media in regards to my county position. My personal cell phone is also my county phone and I take calls 24/7 or 25/8 if you want to say so. I have only had to block three people in all these years. That says a lot about our citizens in Custer County.

Vaden: We don’t have a lot of media in Custer County. One small weekly paper in Challis, a radio station out of Salmon and a weekly paper in Butte County that covers Mackay. We can use the papers when ever possible and can be in contact with them to let them know what is going on in the county.

Voter turnout and participation continues to be low in Idaho. What efforts can be made to stimulate greater voter involvement in elections and government?

Vaden: One way is to have choices for voters and not have candidates run unopposed. I think we have great choices for the opens seats in Custer County. Its going to be hard to know who to vote for so do your research and Vote!!!

Smith: We have a great bunch of folks here in Custer, very active voters, volunteers helping our elections take place. Our sheriff’s race is an important on so the voters are going to turn out perhaps in greater numbers than two years ago I predict.

Greater voter involvement I believe will increase when voters understand what all the County Elected Offices do. The job descriptions and responsibilities of each office to serve their citizens. For the public to understand this would generate greater involvement.

It matters for public feedback for the elected officials to know what they have missed or what is developing.
Lastly, integrity and ethics are key to maintaining public interest in elected offices. Fight against corruption and be transparent in all aspects of county government are important.